Q&A With NAACP CA/HI WIN Chair, Olivia Verrett

Q&A With NAACP CA/HI WIN Chair, Olivia Verrett

Delving into her remarkable journey within the NAACP, my recent discussion with Ms. Olivia Verrett, the Women in the NAACP Chair for California-Hawaii, sheds light on her invaluable experiences and insights.

NAACP CA/HI State President Rick L. Callender: What inspired you to join the NAACP?

NAACP WIN Chair, Olivia Verrett: I joined the NAACP because I wanted to help protect the rights of African Americans from unfair and discriminatory practices by helping to educate and provide information about their rights as a citizen. As a young woman growing up, we were not allowed to enter the front office where we worked. Negroes worked in factories and that is where we used the toilet. We could not work in the front as receptionists, secretaries, file clerks, or mail handlers. We earned a raise of five cents each year of employment. My mother was a carhop during the day and after closing hours she mopped and cleaned up in a nightclub. In the fifth grade, I finally began to read. I read a book about a slave named Harriet Tubman. She was also poor with a child to raise. She gave me the inspiration I needed not to give up because I saw she was a torchblazer who was constantly scrubbing floors, scraping pots, working in fields, guiding plows, yet her spirit could not be broken. She was strong-willed and courageous. I learned from her that no matter what challenges stand before us as women, we can overcome them but we have to stay in the fight.

RLC: Considering the historical struggles and barriers that women, particularly women of color, have faced in their pursuit of equality and justice, how does the NAACP CA/HI Women in the NAACP Committee draw upon this legacy to guide its advocacy and empower women within the organization? 

OV: When we look back at the struggles and barriers that women have had to go through–no voting rights, no right to own property, husbands had legal rights over us, we were beaten, raped, and killed when the time was right–I say we should always remember our past and pledge to each other that we will never go back, not even for an inch. We should always work together and advocate for one another and our children.

RLC: As the NAACP CA/HI Chair of the Women in the NAACP Committee, what do you find most rewarding about the work you do within the organization?

OV: The most rewarding part of the work I do as Women in NAACP Chair is to be able to inspire other women and girls to emulate women before us who laid the foundation for us to succeed and to watch and make sure our women and girls are being treated equitably, with respect, and to be recognized in society as being equal is so rewarding and worthwhile. 

RLC: Finally, what advice would you give to young women who aspire to become leaders and activists within the NAACP, based on your own experiences and journey? 

OV: My advice to women is that, while we are trailblazers in the fight for equality and we are now living a better life, we still have a long way to go when it comes to inequality in the workforce, income, politics, domestic violence, sexual harassment, childcare, and health care. We are still underrepresented in many fields and trades. These are our challenges today and we cannot expect anything to be given to us without a struggle.

Join the NAACP today to join Mrs. Verrett and get involved in Women in the NAACP.